Using an old visa when changing the status to a worker or a student

You enter Canada as a regular visitor with a TRV visa. You later manage to change your status to a worker or a student. Consequently, you receive a work permit or a study permit. However, since your application is inside Canada, the immigration authorities do not issue you a new visa sticker. Can you use the old visa when changing the status to a worker or a student for travelling to Canada? Do you need to replace your V-1 counterfoil with a W-1 or an S-1 visa? Let’s explore the answer.

Visa versus permit

A visa allows you to travel to Canada, but a permit will enable you to remain in Canada. Therefore, these are two separate concepts. Please study the following article for more information:

Sometimes you may change your status in Canada from a visitor to a worker or student. However, you usually won’t receive a new visa counterfoil in your passport. If your old visa has passed its expiration date, you must apply for a new TRV. The following article explains this issue in more detail.

Category codes on visa counterfoils

A visa sticker includes some vital features. One of them, the category code, reflects the nature of the visa. Consequently, a border services officer (BSO) could use this code to examine a person at entry.

Here are some examples:

  • S-1: A student with a study permit
  • SW-1: A student with both a study and a work permit
  • SX-1: A student exempt from a study permit
  • W-1: A worker with a work permit
  • WX-1: A worker exempt from a work permit
  • V-1: A visitor, such as a tourist or someone who is visiting their family members
  • VH-1: A visitor in transit to another country who won’t stay in Canada more than 48 hours

Of course, this list is not comprehensive and shows some examples only. Visit the following link for more information:

When you enter Canada as a visitor, you usually receive a V-1 visa. Nevertheless, IRCC won’t issue you a new visa sticker by changing your status inside Canada. Thus, you will have a permit that supposedly contradicts your visa counterfoil.

NOTE: Category codes on visa counterfoils are different from case type codes on Canadian work permits. Read the following article for more information:

Using an old visa for workers or students

If you manage to change your status from a visitor to a worker or a student, you only change the nature of your temporary status. However, as I mentioned in the previous section, you won’t receive a new visa counterfoil. At this stage, you have two options:

When you apply for a new TRV, you could receive a visa based on the validity of your permit. Moreover, IRCC may change the category code based on the latest document. However, there is no guarantee. Sometimes IRCC officers issue the TRV but do not update the category code. Therefore, you end up spending money without significant changes. You may also like to see the following announcement from the government of Canada.

Source: IRCC (subject to change)

Whether you change your counterfoil or not, you may travel to Canada, as long as the TRV is valid. Of course, an officer will examine you at the port of entry to make sure you still qualify to enter Canada.

Am I in trouble using a mismatching visa category code?

The simple answer is no. BSOs are immigration experts and understand the difference between a TRV and a work or study permit. Moreover, they have access to your immigration history. Therefore, they don’t care if the category codes do not match. To resolve exceptional circumstances, carry enough documents to support your claims. Here are some documents that could help:

  • A copy of your work or study permit
  • A letter from your employer that explains your role: Of course, if you are a student, you need a letter from your school.
  • Your business card or student ID
  • Documents that show you reside in Canada, such as a cell phone bill or a recent bank statement

This list is neither inclusive nor exclusive but gives you an idea about supporting documents. I have also published a video explaining what could go wrong at a port of entry. My intention is not to scare you, as the complications are rare. Nonetheless, if you are interested, watch the video.

If you persist in having sleepless nights, consider reading the following articles. 😉

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    Al Parsai

    Al Parsai is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (class L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) in Toronto, Canada. He is an adjunct professor at Queen's University Law School and Ashton College. Al, who holds a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University, is a member of CICC and CAPIC organizations. Al, the CEO of Parsai Immigration Services, has represented thousands of applicants from more than 50 countries to the immigration authorities since January 2011.

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